When pianist Satoko Fujii, along with her New York trio and her husband, performed this concert in Saitama, Japan on July 28, 2004, their cohesiveness brought a satisfying sensation before the audience. They built each piece with deliberation and stretched out with a free spirit.
"Illusion Suite" was recorded by Fujii's trio and released last year as part of an album of the same name. Here, in a concert setting, the trio forges "Illusion Suite" with a gradual awakening. Bassist Mark Dresser explores high and low with his bow as pianist Fujii and drummer Jim Black apply powerful rhythmic swirls. Then the trio develops a groove and steers the suite through eclectic landscapes that prove accessible to fans of creative improvised jazz, as well as mainstream jazz lovers.
Fujii explores the keyboard with fury and finesse. She's able to express a wide range of emotions and does so with clarity. Dresser and Black find plenty of time to stretch out in this live setting, giving the performance occasional surges of adrenaline.
With Natsuki Tamura on the remainder of the program, the ensemble paints portraits in sound. His trumpet wails, moans, and growls in the tradition of our ancestors. Buddy Bolden would love the way he opens up and "sings" with his instrument to communicate freely.
Fujii's quartet closes with "An Insane Scheme," which tickles the imagination with its quirky sounds. Fast and light, the group romps over a Satie-esque theme that combines elements from the music of everywhere. Classical in its appeal, the piece folds centuries of composed ideas alongside highly innovative improvisations. Each player is free as a bird, and nothing holds them back. Live in Japan 2004 comes highly recommended for its universal appeal, its accessibility, and its rhythmic grooves.
Visit Satoko Fujii on the web.
Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Mark Dresser: bass; Jim Black: drums.